For children who are afraid of dogs, a trip to the park can be tainted as they look over their shoulder every minute just in case a pup comes up to them.
Unfortunately, getting over their fear is not something that can happen overnight, but while it can be challenging, it will be so worth it the next time they come in contact with a dog and aren’t as frightened.
Here are six things you can do to help your child be less afraid:
Talk about the fear
As usual, talking about your little one’s fear can help them to put things in perspective. Listen to what they say and where their fear is coming from in order for you to get a better understanding of it.
Dogs are just as frightened as them
Giving the child some sense of what is going on in a dog's mind, it is important you tell them that some dogs are just as frightened of them as they are of the animal. This is one of the reasons they bark and jump around. If your little one knows this then they can understand why a dog is jumping around.
Teach them how to approach a dog
While it is obviously important your child doesn’t stick their hand into the dog’s mouth, telling them that the animal might bite will only intensify their fear. Talk about getting down to the dog’s level and not to pet their face so that when they are ready to approach one they will be better prepared.
Don’t force them
Don’t ever force them to go up to a dog and pet it. This will simply cause them to have even more negative associations with the animal and won’t help them to get over their fear. When you come across a dog, ask your little one if they would like to pet it, if they say no don’t force the issue, accept their answer with a gentle ‘"that’s no problem,shall we do something else?".
While it might seem like a good idea to introduce your child to a puppy, this can actually be counterproductive. Puppies are cute, but they are also very active and excitable and more likely to jump up on your child. It is far better to introduce your little one to an older dog who will be less likely to jump around.
Be a good role model
How you interact and approach a dog will go a long way to teaching your little one how to act around the animal. When you do see a dog, approach it slowly, asking the owner first if you can pet it. If they oblige, pet the body of the dog and don’t flinch when they try to lick you. For some kids, a fear can be exaggerated by their parent’s fears and reactions.